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I do not know whether the hon. Lady was reading the newspapers when she was campaigning for election to this House, but there was a major sovereign debt crisis emerging in Europe. [Hon. Members: "Oh, come on!"] Well, I am sorry, but the gasps from Opposition Members suggest how utterly and completely out of touch they are with the realities of financial markets. We are talking about a very serious crisis, and the Government had to respond to it, as other Governments are doing now.
I congratulate the Opposition spokesman on being honest enough to acknowledge, in a rare departure from tradition, that he had been forward in accepting the need for cuts. Those on the Benches behind him who are so anxious about early cuts need to be aware-the Institute for Fiscal Studies pointed this out-that the previous Government were already engaged in a fiscal tightening of £23 billion for this financial year. We are now being accused of making cuts in the current circumstances, but the previous Government were planning that too.
That was on the record, and it was not just a theoretical abstraction; rather, many of us saw it happening. It happened in the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, which the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton South East was responsible for. Lord Mandelson was the first Minister to put his Department forward for early cuts, which was why, in the run-up to the election, I attended a meeting of further education college lecturers in my constituency, 70 of whom were going to be made redundant. The reason for that was that those early cuts, introduced by the right hon. Gentleman, were working their way through to the front line of teaching. I then went to one of the leading science laboratories in my constituency, where 40 members of staff were being made redundant because of cuts made by the right hon. Gentleman and Lord Mandelson this financial year, so please let us not have any more of this pious nonsense about early cuts.
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